There’s no easier way to say it, and it’s always better to acknowledge that the problem exists than to ignore it. We are addicted to cars. We suffer from traffic, hate sitting in endless traffic jams, and get anxious looking for parking. Nonetheless, we can’t quit the habit of driving. And worst of all, we refuse to cure ourselves of this addiction, despite a proven way to recovery. More on that later.
Working as an urban planner can be quite costly, especially a self-employed one. The tools we use on a daily basis do not come cheap. Even if you just need the basics (ArcGIS, Sketchup Pro, and AutoCAD), you end up paying for them through the nose. This article is an effort to collect as many free tools for urban planners as possible, making it easy to explore what is out there.
Dear Ebay, (Dear Blocket,)
After many years of loyal service, I have just decided that my bicycle needs replacing. Too much of a cheap-Dutch, and too busy (read lazy) to renovate, I went on Ebay to find an affordable newer model. I have been browsing your website (and that of Blocket, Sweden’s largest second-hand website). Both you and Blocket don’t categorize bicycles as vehicles, but rather as toys or fitness products. So, according to you, cycling is just a sport and only motorized vehicles are considered to be “proper” vehicles. I believe, however, that it is time to change that and take the bicycle seriously, as a mode of transportation.
As an urban planner/scholar, I'm quite interested in traffic issues. And, although I drive my car from time to time, I believe that cycling should be promoted as much as possible. It is cheaper than a car or public transport ticket, keeps one in good shape (so you might even save some gym money), and is better for the environment. Considering that we live in a time where climate-change and the rising costs of healthcare are regularly making headlines, promoting sustainable transportation should be a priority.
One of the major obstacles for bicycles to become an alternative to the car is that many are not taking it seriously as a vehicle. For too many people around the world, it is still seen as just a workout machine or a toy. Bicycle infrastructure is, compared to that of the car, highly underdeveloped. A vulnerable cyclist is too often forced to share space with motorized transportation, resulting in (deadly) injuries (see for instance: Bikes vs. Cars). In that way, the physical infrastructure of cities demonstrates that cycling was, and is often still, not considered important enough to plan for.
Cities around the world are increasingly acknowledging the potential of cycling, and massive investments are being made in proper infrastructure. Therefore, I would like you to consider moving bikes to the "vehicle" section, and contribute to the mentality shift that cycling is no less than driving a car. Who knows, it might even contribute to a healthier society.
The Dutch National Railways (NS) is cooperating with SnappCar en Uber, hoping to reduce the use of private cars. At the time of writing, it is the European Mobility Week, and NS tries to promote more sustainable modes of transport. This campaign is an excellent opportunity to share some thoughts and concerns regarding the state of mobility sharing apps and initiatives in the Netherlands.
How can we increase neighbourhood health by making use of open data? That was the main question last week when I participated in a weekend-long hackathon for health at Experiolab. Aiming to improve the public health of Kronoparken, a modernist neighbourhood in Karlstad, Sweden, we came together with a range of (local) experts and local citizens and went to work.
Having designed several outdoor fitness parks, I present here a few steps to create a successful outdoor gym. As an example, I take the case of the Oosterkade, a fitness Park in Groningen, the Netherlands. We have designed it this year, and it's been attracting many users every day, throughout the day. The lessons learned from creating this park can help you plan a better park in your city. So, let's move
Porto is a city with convenient transit, stretching river, sandy beach, pleasant summer, beautiful architecture, and abundant green space. An ideal vacation spot, the city has been attracting millions of tourists ever since tourism-driven development started to emerge within the past five years. However, a short stroll along Porto’s historic center would reveal a different story: many residential houses remain under-maintained and abandoned in the most desirable locations. While the city gains international popularity, its own residents do not seem to find home at the heart of Porto.
The French burkini ban is sold as a tool for safeguarding our bodily well-being and liberal freedoms, but it is exactly these kinds of extreme right policies that threaten our way of life.
Amsterdam, a city ranking high in sustainability indexes, is home to a new initiative: The TreeWiFi. The young startup behind the initiative has hung a bunch of birdhouses around the city that provide their surroundings with free wifi internet access. However, when air pollution around a treehouse exceeds a predefined limit, the internet access is turned on. The founder of the project hopes that these treehouses will reduce air pollution in the Dutch capital.
Urbanization, the growing share of people living in urban areas, is often used as an argument for tackling societal problems in an urban context (read: cities). Here in Sweden, for instance, 85% of the population is living in urban areas. And although Sweden has an exceptionally high urban population, high rates of urban dwellers are not uncommon, as globally more than half of the people live in urban areas.
There are many myths explaining why so many people in the Netherlands cycle. I have heard it all: from explanations relating to altitude and elevations (“The Netherlands is flat”) to analyses of the Dutch genetic form (“They are more suitable to cycling”). I’ve even heard that the Dutch prefer the bicycle over the car because they are so damn cheap.
Of course these stories are nonsense. The 21th century Dutch cycles because the Netherlands is home to great, complete and safe infrastructure. While other countries keep making the same excuses for not becoming a cycling heaven, the Dutch just build better infrastructure. And while some nations, like the Danes, successfully follow the Dutch model: providing safe paths for cyclists, others don’t quite do so.
Lately, I was asked to redesign a playground in Groningen, the Netherlands. It is located in a big green space in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood, called De Hunze.
“Absurdity in the middle of the city. I have to overcome the distance of 20 meters, and it takes me more than 11 minutes”. That’s how Anna, a young woman from Warsaw, described on Facebook her last week’s experience. She uploaded a video showing how she tries to cross a street in the city. And it wasn't as easy as it should be.
It is becoming some sort of tradition, the LVBLCITY list of urban/regional planning summer schools in Europe. Also this year, there are many interesting summer schools across the continent, and the deadlines of many of them are approaching. This list does not contain all the courses out there, but is rather a selection of courses that we at LVBLCITY find particularly interesting.
Urban and transport planners who are concerned with the negative environmental impact of travelling have been advocating for policies that achieve three basic goals: shortening travel distances, lowering travel frequency, and reducing car use. For example, by planning dense urban neighbourhoods with amenities within walking distance, the need for long car journeys is reduced. The question I asked in my research was whether these policy goals are relevant when it comes to an important activity which planners hardly pay attention to: staying in touch with family.